Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Put Out More Fags*

All over Gong’an County in China’s Hubei Province, state employees are puffing away as if their lives depended on it, or at least their careers.

In what must be one of the oddest state directives ever – and China’s had some pretty odd ones in the past – civil servants and teachers have been set a consumption target of 230,000 packs a year of locally produced cigarettes to boost the local economy.

Of course, state reliance on tobacco-generated tax income is nothing new – see Peter Taylor’s ‘The Smoke Ring’ (1984) for details – but few governments have gone to the lengths of rummaging through bins for incriminating rival butts or fining those who don’t smoke enough.

Even schools have been issued with a smoking quota for teachers, with inspections by a ‘special taskforce’ to ensure compliance. It seem the lure of vast tax revenues is irresistible - the tail is wagging the dog to an alarming extent; of all the resources for a state to rely on for its income, this is surely one of the least prudent.

But before we point an accusing finger or see this as third-world eccentricity – the Telegraph put this story in its ‘weird news’ section – consider the tax revenue from cigarette sales in the UK; perhaps we should take a good look at the windows surrounding us and put our stones down again.
*British joke - apologies to readers of an American persuasion

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